Amid distrust, relativism, Christian journalism needed

Carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth is what unites Southern Baptists, along with the belief that the Bible is God’s inerrant, infallible and sufficient Word. Yet we find ourselves in an increasingly hostile nation. Such is the product of a society that denies absolute truth. It is a bitter pill to swallow, reminding us we live in a fallen world.

Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., recently offered a sobering, accurate assessment: “When we (Baptists/Christians) become dominant in a culture, we tend to lapse into cultural Christianity, and then we discover that there’s really no confession or conversion here. That’s one of the reasons why people in the South are so surprised [about what] is going on with social transformation because they thought all these people were Christians. Well, it turns out, no, they actually weren’t.

“Such people merely acted like Christians because society suggested that’s what they were supposed to act like, and now that society says not to act that way, ‘they don’t act that way anymore.’”

Americans, agreeing that a Judeo-Christian ethic is the best way for a unified nation to live, is gone with the wind. We are now reaping the whirlwind for a culture that has lost its way by rejecting the Bible and the existence of absolute truth. Moral relativism – a key component of postmodernism – with its putrid truth decay, has permeated our society for several decades. It threatens our liberty, encourages sexual perversion, promotes destruction of the family unit and welcomes every crackpot, totalitarian theory that surfaces (Marxist Critical Race Theory, the latest).

I once asked a theologian what would come after postmodernism? His reply: “Postmodernism will collapse into its own chaos.” Fueling this chaotic vortex is the secular news media with its abandonment of fair, accurate journalism. Add the censoring of ideas by social media giants like Facebook and Twitter and it’s understood why a growing number of Americans distrust secular media.

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In fact, Americans are losing trust in leaders across every area of their lives, according to the 21st annual Edelman Trust Barometer, which measures trust in institutions globally. Across every type of institution — media, government and business — trust has fallen to historic lows. For example, Edelman revealed 56 percent of Americans agreed with this statement: “Journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.” Some 59 percent of Americans said they agree with this statement: “Most news organizations are more concerned with supporting an ideology or political position than with informing the public.” And 61 percent of Americans think, “The media is not doing well at being objective and non-partisan.” How can people in a democratic republic make informed decisions when people believe journalists lie, distort truth and censor differing viewpoints? Such a nation is ripe for deception and evil ideas.

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More than ever, Southern Baptists need journalists who believe absolute truth exists – and that we can know it, just as Jesus said in John 8:32. This is why state convention newspapers and publications like WORLD magazine and The Christian Post, are vital. They do not lie or play “gotcha” journalism, but relentlessly search for truth and report it with the goal of glorifying Jesus.

Southern Baptists need to provide more funding to train a new generation of journalists. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has fine journalists, but there are not enough. In recent months, several editors have retired and there will be more. The need for quality content will become greater as the failure of the secular media deepens.

The Spurgeon College at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has launched a journalism program, and all three of the Missouri Baptist Convention-affiliated universities have some type of journalism training. We should pray they are all successful. WORLD magazine sponsors a journalism institute (which I attended in 1999), and The Pathway sponsors an annual journalism retreat for writers, but these are not nearly enough to meet the need.

Meanwhile, some state conventions are opting for digital publications and are no longer publishing printed newspapers. I wonder about the long-term impact of such decisions – especially on Southern Baptist unity and Cooperative Program giving. People have to be intentional to go to a Web site, but not so when a printed Pathway shows up in their mailboxes. We are humbled that Missouri Southern Baptists trust The Pathway, allowing it in your homes. Once “the cord is cut,” it is nearly impossible to get readers back.

Communications for Southern Baptists will be critical going forward. I urge Southern Baptists to think about these matters. Then pray for God’s guidance.

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